Nene population on the rise

  • Jessica Else / The Garden Island file

    Nene, the Hawaiian goose, is Hawaii’s state bird, and an endangered species. This pair appears poised to take flight off from a cliff at Kilauea Point National Wildlife Refuge.

  • Brenda Zaun, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service / Special to The Garden Island

    A nene, or Hawaiian goose, is Hawaii’s state bird, an endangered species, and seems to pose at Kilauea Point National Wildlife Refuge.

LIHUE — Nene numbers are on the rise, and while that’s good news for the endangered state bird, it also presents challenges — especially on Kauai, where the Hawaiian geese tend to stick around populated areas.

Estimates for the 2018 population count of the Hawaiian goose have been released from the Nene Recovery Action Group, showing Kauai’s population is at an estimated 1,545 members.

Statewide, the total estimate for the population is 3,159, up from the 2017 statewide estimate of 3,146. Compare those statewide totals from the ones calculated nearly 10 years ago; the population was estimated 1,900 in 2008.

It’s good news across the board, according to the state Department of Land and Natural Resources, an agency member of NRAG.

NRAG meets annually to discuss statewide nene conservation and management on public and private lands. State DLNR Division of Forestry and Wildlife is also the lead agency on the statewide population surveys. DOFAW coordinates surveys with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and National Park Service.

NRAG’s goal is to remove the Hawaiian goose from the endangered species list, said DLNR spokesman AJ McWhorter.

“In order to accomplished this, island populations must be healthy and thriving with sufficient protected habitat across the state,” he said.

For several years, DLNR has been using a video campaign to raise awareness of the nene, and signs alongside the road that remind drivers to watch out for the birds, particularly in the area of the Hanalei Bridge.

“The nene awareness video campaign has helped, however, the campaign needs to be continued to remind the public of the growing island population and to be watchful when driving,” McWhorter said. “As the population continues to thrive, additional signs may be needed in areas where birds frequent near roads. “

While nene are present within the cities and along roadsides throughout the main Hawaiian islands, DLNR says Kauai experiences the mixture of humans and nene at a high rate.

“The majority of Kauai nene are using human developed areas such as farmlands, ranchlands and golf courses,” McWhorter said. “Cooperating with land managers, providing technical assistance to reduce conflicts will play an important role in keeping the population healthy and thriving.”


Jessica Else, environment reporter, can be reached at 245-0452 or

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